Article

A DOWNTOWN SHOW, plus, MORE OF WHAT YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT DOWNTOWN PITTSFIELD BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK

BY DAN VALENTI

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THE PLANET will leave this story as the lead for one more day, since the number viewing continues to go up (a notable spike in the last couple of days).

John Krol and Clarence Fanto Tag Team Dan Valenti on the 12/07/10 show, and it's not a contest. We can say no more!

As a way of update, we attempted to share a link for the broadcast of this morning’s “Good Morning, Pittsfield” hosted by John Krol. In the first half-hour, THE PLANET and Krol talk about the downtown. In the second half, Clarence Fanto joins us for a lively discussion that continues this topic and branches into the tributary of an even more fascinating subject: “Journalism in Cyberspace: New Rules for the New Frontier”? The show is entirely unscripted and ad-libbed, and none of knew we would “go there.” That’s what makes live media fun.

When trying to post the link here, however, we learned that the file does not comply with the security requirements of this website. That’s what the technology told our webmaster. We will explore this and try to amend. You can, though, to to the Pittsfield Community Television website for the broadcast or to www.goodmorningpittsfield.com to view the show in its entirety.

THE PLANET: Cyberspace has wrenched control of the news from Big Media, which today is beholden to Big Advertisers, and put it in other more responsible hands. That is the new journalistic imperative of blogs.

We heard from lots of folks, up and down, who thought we put on a “good show.” As always, we welcome your point of view. Agree or disagree, your say is important in this neck of the woods. Continue on for more about downtown. Also, revisit the past several posts at this site. — Dan Valenti

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Here, as promised, is the latest round of intelligence coming from various downtown sources. Each source has strong ties to the situation, and some, literally, are vested interests. THE PLANET has checked the information as best we could. At that, we remind readers that this is basically raw intelligence, which — as believers in openness and the importance unhindered access —we pass along for your assessment.

The information, shared by those who preferred to remain anonymous, is given in the form of 12 observations.

1. Dottie’s, corner of Maplewood and North Street, Greystone Building — They had an outdoor cafe license that THE PLANET referred to in a previous pst. The coffee bar forgot about capacity issues, as in they have one bathroom, and by code that limits them to 19 seats. A couple of months ago, a disgruntled patron reported them. This has added to the struggles of the business. Our prime source for this doesn’t think Dottie’s will reopen the outdoor cafe next spring. That’s assuming the place is still in business.

2. Shawn’s Barber Shop, Greystone Building — Our information terms it “at the brink of extinction.” If it goes out of business, landlord George Whalen, who has done much in upgrades at the grand old building, may reconfiguring the space so that Dottie’s gets the bathroom. Mission Tapas would get the front so that they could expand into that space and have more seating. Tapas is exceeding performance projections, and this growth scenario should only help reinforce its position.

The Market: As of Dec. 11, "Yes, they will have no bananas."

3. The Market, 400 block of North Street — This store closes Dec. 11. It failed for several reasons. One not yet mentioned relates to the fact it did not have the needed bathroom. This meant they had to reconfigure the space and get rid of the costume shop. It also failed, according to a source, in part due to the mismanagement. Our source claims the store’s first manager was fired sometime shortly after the opening and his mismanagement allegedly led to many of the construction and equipment delays that ultimately delayed in opening. This ate into their projected peak season.

4. Ken Green, the owner of Museum facsimiles recently cleared out a portion of his factory/shipping center and was looking to lease the space out. History: The store moved when there was a space shifting due to a real estate office moving in. He rented the new space for a year with options on year two and three. The Emporium had used that space as a pop-up store last year from October – Jan 1. He took over the space, renovated it, and opened. Although his lease should be due to end/renew in January, Green says his store will not be closing.

A dazzling display of items for dale at The Emporium.

5. The Emporium — They are reportedly in dire straights, losing $600-$1000 a month. One source heard they are looking to sell the business. The Emporium will probably close now that much of the “synergy” they were hoping for on “Upper North” (read: “Middle North”) is gone. “It is the perfect excuse.” a source said, mentioning other nearby store closings.

6. Ancient Language and Bra and

Girl — A source sent along this: “In my mind, two of the most out-of-place stores on North Street, but both are rent subsidized, with the “normal” rent reduced by upwards of 75 percent.[REDACTED] somehow was involved in helping sort this out.”

7. Jae’s Spice — A source reports her understanding (“from the manager who worked there prior to Burger closing”) is that Jae is a figurehead only. She claims his portion of his investment was capital in the form of loans against properties that have since been foreclosed. There are some other operational issues at Spice, she says, and the establishment is suffering losses. The losses, according to this account, have been “stemmed somewhat by the fact that they don’t have to pay personal property taxes and some other taxes on the property.” She references here the generous tax breaks given by the city to the business.

8. Pittsfield Contemporary, aka 305 North — Fully rent subsidized. The space costs $300 a month, well under the “market value.” Granted, value is determined by what the market will pay, but the space had been listed at $1000 a month. According to a source, the rent subsidy, paid by private capital. We hear from an inside source they never got a certificate of occupancy nor any of the needed licenses to collect sales tax, operate a business etc. They have events and serve alcohol there and, the source claims, are generally ‘protected’ from code enforcement by Cultural Pittsfield.” We hear that the financier who is picking up the rent thought initially that he was doing the downtown a service but now realizes “maybe not.” The rent runs until April. The subsidizer began paying rent in November.

9. Rebel Sound Records — Closed, but contrary to many people’s assertions, the business received little or no help from Cultural Pittsfield. It actually had all the needed licenses, met code, and were doing things “right.” It wasn’t enough. The business was located in a space next to long-time tenant Abbey Cutters in the Shipton Building at 150 North Street. The space had had countless pop-up type businesses, and even at one point a church, open there, but nothing has worked there. This is just speculation, but could the lack of support from Cultural Pittsfield come because the store often drew “young undesirables” to downtown (Goths, punks, zombies, and others). Perhaps having RSR next to the skateboard store was more than Pittsfield could handle. Of course, it doesn’t help that when the kids congregate in front, there is nary a cop in sight to tell them what for. This issue keeps coming up: Where are the foot patrols who pound the North Street beat?

10. — Storefront Artists Project is expected to move in the near future. The manager is paid approximately $500-600 a month — yes, a month — to run that. According to a source, “At first I had heard they were moving into the space near the museum on Bank Row, where the Museum pop-up store was and where the Deval Patrick campaign headquarters was, but now I am not so sure if they will move to that space.”

11. Brulee’s — An informant wrote this to THE PLANET: “I have heard that Brulee’s is not doing well at all. This was a couple months back, so quite possibly they are doing better now.”

12. Cultural Pittsfield — Our source says Cultural Pittsfield has been paying for “good press” to the Eagle. “When they had the ‘Things They Carried’ veterans programming, they paid upwards of $1,500 to the Eagle to ‘cover’ the event. They also did not pay all of the vendors for their work, our source claims. “They were going to commit $3,000 toward the printing and framing of the photos, but they only paid $1,000 or so.”

Another correspondent filed this: “Most recently I paid for the wine at an opening ($211) to a wine shop in Great Barrington. I have the e-mails (“Why not buy in Pittsfield”?), only to find out that they were serving the wine to just about anyone and in violation of state law. I used to be a big fan of Cultural Pittsfield, but now I see that it is a patronage and propaganda machine for the Ruberto Administration. They recently hired the former events manager of Spice because she was out of work and needed a job, and asked [a local businessman] help fund her position and match a grant. Short version: Megan applies for grants, spends some of the money to prop up Ruberto, some to hire friends, and some for the actual program. There are so many conflicts of interest in that group I had to step away from it and no longer support it.”

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And that, my good friends, is our report. We welcome any comment or feedback. It’s a large amount of information that’s been gathered and presented, and it doesn’t represent the full story (only reality can stand in for itself, something to which the written word must take a back seat).

As THE PLANET said at the top, we trust our sources, but we also realize in an issue as complicated as the fate of downtown Pittsfield, there are many competing stories, with numerous points of view, who wish to share their own particular spin on developments and happenings.

We welcome all comment, compliments, criticisms, and, most of all, corrections of matters of record and fact. Why? Because THE PLANET doesn’t have all the answers. We only have the questions.

32 Responses to “A DOWNTOWN SHOW, plus, MORE OF WHAT YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT DOWNTOWN PITTSFIELD BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK”

  1. Zach C
    December 6, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Excellent column. I couldn’t agree more with the take on Cultural Pittsfield from your source, and i’m not surprised to see the information you’ve posted on them.

    In regards to Dotties, it’s unfortunate a patron reported that logistical violation. I’m not sure if Dotties could fill the 19 person capacity, even on their best business day. That being said, does it really bother anybody that there is only one bathroom in Dotties Coffe Lounge?

    Rebel Sound Records was a shame from day one. Andy had the only music store in downtown Pittsfield which could have been a great business opportunity, but chose to demassify his target customer to such a great extent that it became impossible to make a profit. If he had used the store to sell music outside of the punk rock genre and used the room to promote a greater variance in musical genres, then perhaps he would still be open. While one respects his decision to stay true to his passion for punk rock, it was just not a viable way to make money.

    I also cannot see Jae’s open for much longer. It’s just not a very affordable or practical place for families.

    On a side note: Chameleon’s isn’t even open yet, but I can already read the Eagle headlines about the same safety issues that have plagued every other Pittsfield night club.

  2. merge
    December 6, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    The idea of using Shawn’s Barber Shop to expand both Dottie’s and Mission makes sense, if indeed it were to close.

    But them closing makes no sense. Not that I know their books, but they are always packed every time I go there – I mean literally standing room only.

    The only possible problem I could see there, to paraphrase Yogi Bera, is that noone goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.

  3. merge
    December 6, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Bra & Girl on Norh Street – it doesn’t matter where it is, it is FABULOUS!~

    I imagine followers of Planet Valenti to be mostly 1) men, and 2) (if you actually agree with Valenti on most stuff) to have no girlfriend.

    So it would be a waste of time to rave about the store, but if you are fan of Dan Valenti then maybe you want to at least mention it to your mom when you come upstairs from the basement for dinner…

  4. Marcus A.
    December 6, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    Thanks, DAn, for posting this. This look at some of the inside of whats going on can only help us, we the citizens, as we try to take part in plotting a strategy for downtown that works. Many feel the ordinary citizens has been left out. How do you get all this stuff? Are you on with Wikileaks (LOL)!

  5. Gung Ho for Ruberto
    December 6, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    LEt me inject a note of sanity here (isn’t that one of the nome de plumes of one of this sites responders?). LEt’s start with what everyone admits: there has been downtown progress. Let’s also give credit for this progress: the administration of Mayor Jim Ruberto and his ODC director. Mayor Ruberto has almost singlehandedly lifted the tide of downtown for all. We look forward to the election in 2011 because Jim can’t be beat on this issue or on economic development. Progress is hard for all the naysayers and negative types to admit.

    • Dee
      December 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

      Deanna – Is that you? Me thinks you protest too much. Until something positive is done about the crime, drugs and gangs that proliferate Pittsfield, and North Street in general, nothing is going to thrive, much less survive. Take off your rose-colored glasses and give a good hard look to the reality of the situation. Good people are pouring money into a pit, all based on the glorious words of Jim.

      I miss the days when North Street was the hub of Pittsfield. When there was so much foot traffic one could not go a block an hour because of all the friends encountered. The shops were varied and differse. There was a cop on the street walking up and down looking for anyone with a cross-eyed look. I would love to see that happen again. I miss the old North Street. I’m not a negative person but a realist. Until the cancer is cut from Pittsfield, it will never return to it’s previous glory.

      • really?
        December 6, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

        The streets were packed because the majority of the population was employed by GE. GE gave the population cancer and then left.
        The economic depravity and complete corruption of the health of the population left by GE has created this current “cancer” you are referring to and it can not be eradicated overnight.

        I don’t believe that all it will take is some fun and kitchy shops downtown to change that, but its a nice start.

    • Jim Gleason
      December 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

      What economic development? Where are the decent jobs and decent companies moving to Pittsfield? Promises with no results is the real story of the ruberto regime.

  6. In the Know
    December 7, 2010 at 4:41 am #

    Hey Dan,

    I also heard that Cultural Pittsfield, the tiniest of all city departments, is not just a patronage machine and a front for the mayor, but is also an underground socialist conspiracy that hides descendants of Jesus and had a hand in Wikileaks. Also, I heard they single-handedly closed Rebel Sounds, GE and Abu Ghraib. But that’s just what my sources tell me. Get well soon — sanity is a blast!
    Sincerely,
    Pittsfield resident

  7. Hate Fanto, but....
    December 7, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    Fanto made Valenti look silly on GMP.

    • danvalenti
      December 7, 2010 at 11:33 am #

      My main man Clarence was fabulous and awesome. Thanks for tuning in.

  8. Asking for Sanity
    December 7, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    What’s wrong with this discussion. Not a thing. Dan VAlenti’s original post about business closing was responsible and accurate and I think beat the Eagle with the scoop. The discussion that followed on the downtown has been positiv and helpful. Thanks to young Josh and others for contributing their ideas.

    • danvalenti
      December 7, 2010 at 11:31 am #

      SANITY
      Well, as you can see, not everyone welcomes an honest discussion. But hey, we fought WWII after Pearl Harbor (anniversary today) so that even the ignorant can have a say. Truth wins out in an honest, open discussion.

  9. Jim Gleason
    December 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    Hey Dan. Saw you on the john Krol propaganda hour this AM. Thought you maed sense and Krol just whined the company line. I don’t think Fanto has any journalistic integrity so for him to question yours is ludicrous.

    • danvalenti
      December 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

      JIM
      Thanks. Actually, Clarence and I agreed more than not. It’s hard to tell because of the “animation.” As I said, cyberspace has rewritten the protocols of journalism. I bring my old values with me into cyberspace as much as is practical.

    • Hate Fanto, but....
      December 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

      Mr. Gleason,

      I personally don’t like Fanto – I think he’s an arrogant jerk (just my opinion).

      I also think he writes poorly (just my opinion).

      But what examples can you cite regarding any lack of journalistic integrity? I am unaware of any and woud like to be able to have that ammunition.

      • Jim Gleason
        December 7, 2010 at 5:54 pm #

        His shilling for the ruberto administration and casting doubt on the actions of Joe Nichols abd Melissa Mazzeo for asking questions that needed to be asked on the blight ordinances and 40U proposal that were put into effect by the rest of the rubber stampers on the council. He would praise ruberto for any stupid idea he has just to stay in favor of the corner office, in my opinion. There is no integrity in being a boot licker.

  10. Dean
    December 7, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    [EDITOR'S NOTE — THE REPLY HAS BEEN EDITED FOR CONTENT]
    wish there was less whining about crime and violence downtown… its a stereotype offered by fatties sitting at home that watch too many movies. is their violence in pittsfield? in the words of Dan “you betcha” but is there violence in SoHo, or at the Holyoke mall, you betcha… so how bout you [go] downtown. you probably arent going to do that because the stores downtown are either overpriced, outdated, or just plain weird. that being said, foot patrol and bike patrol need to happen, i support the police 100% but its a lot easier to ignore crime being lazy in a car then on your feet.

  11. Gung Ho for Ruberto
    December 7, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    Jim Ruberto has done more for the city of Pittsfield and particularly its downtown than every mayor combined going back to Charlie Smith. We are fortunate to have him.

  12. Joe Pinhead
    December 7, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    Wow,
    Just watched the GMP thing on the Internet, what hat was Krol wearing? Is he the host of the show? Or does he sit in defense of the policies he has helped shape regarding the downtown?
    There is nothing wrong if he wants to defend those policies, but he can’t speak of journalistic integrity and not give us full disclosure. I’m currently out of town 3 of us where having a beer (a root for me) and watching. The 2 fellers I was watching with had no idea he is an elected City official. After I informed them they seen the entire ordeal in a different light. If it matters both are PHD’s one in physics the other in marketing.
    He has an absolute obligation to promote downtown as it is a part of the city he represents and “sells” to the world daily in attempts to encourage investment in the city. So can we expect objectivity from Mr. Krol?
    Mr. Fanto with his remarks about selling advertising on your blog in the future, doesn’t the paper sell advertising on a daily basis? Was his question relevant to the discussion on Downtown? The cyberspace blog? Or “journalistic integrity”? I’m uncertain that’s for sure.
    The Downtown story has them scared it would appear; they can still shape the news however they can no longer control it.
    Mr. Krol was not interviewing he was attempting to interrogate, an interviewer would ask what do you mean by X, Y, Z? An interrogator starts a line of questioning with you said X,Y, Z
    The bottom line is all should be happy that there is in fact a discussion going on centering on what could, would and should be going on and going towards developing North Street.
    Information is good and a counterpoint or questioning of elected, and appointed people is needed to keep Government healthy. One only need look at the Ware report to see what happens when no one is looking.
    Great job and Im glad theres a place to see opposing points of view.

    • Captain Obvious
      December 7, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

      Joe Pinhead,

      Opposing views are fine; encouraged. The problem was not Fanto being off topic, or Krol being pro-Pittsfield (councilor or not).

      The problem is that Valenti takes rumor (aka “invents”) and presents it as facts/news, not as discussion.

  13. Dean
    December 8, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    i would love to take credit for being captain obvious, but sadly, i can not. on a side note atleast you have people talking Dan. no matter how much i disagree with how you get there, people are talking

  14. Joe Pinhead
    December 8, 2010 at 5:37 am #

    Captain Obvious,
    Precisely, what a blog is. A means to get people with differing opinions or common goals communicating, a place where people either ignored or unrepresented by the main stream media can opine. Yes according to Wikipedia the main stream media is suffering due to blogs, they can either adapt or decay their choice. The blogosphere etc is frightening. I believe it was 2005 that Time magazine made everyone a “person of the year” due to blogging. Please take a minute and read the Wikipedia page on blogs. I’m sorry I don’t see where anyone invented any story, I did see where some questions were asked and I seen some great discussion. Yes it is true that all the scenarios mentioned did not pan out, a responsible blogger will go back in both the short term and the long term and revisit the discussion to reframe. It’s literally moving at the speed of light.

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1569514,00.html

    • copout
      December 8, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

      Joe Pinhead would (emphasis, respectfully, on “would”) have a point that a blog would make sense to have lower (no?) standards of journalistic integetrity if (IF!) it were presented as discussion and dialogue.

      Valenti, like a journalist, uses “sources” and “spies” (as he calls them) to report (REPORT) information as fact.

      Valenti frames rumor as fact. He may try to argue semantics in some instances, but he knows that he’s trying to report real news.

      (heck, he even heckled the Eagle for getting “2nd place” in scooping the closing of The Market – he frames his blog, Pinhead argues should be discussion, as news. It’s very transparent).

  15. rick
    December 8, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    dan, the bees are a buzzing…. way to go. now its time for and old fashion campaign for mayor,the earlier the better.. by the way did anyone see robertos hissy fit monday night… better than prime time.

    • Mayor Valenti
      December 8, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

      Dan,

      How does that sound?

      • danvalenti
        December 8, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

        OK with me, but my wife … now that’s another story.

  16. SALTY
    December 8, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Saw the show with Valenti Fanto and Krol. Kudos to Dan for engaging the topic, which precisely is what Joe P above mentions: moving at the speed of light. Though Valenti was brilliant in explaining to his 2 coleagues about the different in pace. If he waits for people to respond on the record which they never do, after he has made phones calls (which he says he did) and emails, and if they don’t get back, he’s got to drive to the businesses the next day etc etc., the story is gone. I think what this is all about is the old fashioned media decaying as Joe P says and being scared to death of writers like Dan, who have adapted. Keep it going, because this is a media for the people.

  17. Joe Pinhead
    December 8, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    If anyone doesn’t think the Old media is in fact trying desperately to control the news consider a few facts. In the last weeks leading up to the last election everyone was talking about earmarks and Congressional spending etc. at the same time one of the Individuals who partook of one of the largest earmarks in the area was pleading guilty to Tax evasion, fraud and other counts equally repugnant. Barely a mention of it in the Eagle yet when the $4,000,000 was handed out billboards were put up touting the 1000 jobs on the way. What did we hear from the daily? Some Dribble about Bush who was not running even for dog catcher in a small Texas town. Have you read the outline of the audit conducted by the OIG? If so please point me to it in the daily? Isn’t 4 million relevant? Do they need more time to double check the sources? Or is the man that countless Politicians pinned are hopes, dreams and our childrens future to no longer newsworthy? I suppose oops will do for some.

    http://www.oig.dot.gov/library-item/5427

    • danvalenti
      December 8, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

      Thank you, Joe. My guess: Are you referring to Michael Armitage? It would appear so from the reference to the 1,000. Yes, THE PLANET remembers that well. We were on the air at the time, and had the audacity to question why the city council would approve a $250,000 gift outright requested by Mayor Doyle for presentation to this upstanding man. The OIG you refer to must mean the Office of Inspector General. No, can’t say I read anything about this in the Old Media. Guess they’re too busy making their phones calls, sending their e-mails, and waiting for Mr. Armitage to comment. They wouldn’t dare print anything before that, because that would be, you know, “bad journalism.” For a Pinhead you are a genius.

  18. Josh!
    December 23, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    Dan Valenti is a pork chop. I hate Christmas. Has anyone explored comparing Mayor Ruberto to any prominent fascists? Just putting that out there. (Heart you, internet debate!!)

    How about Pittsfield spends times developing a youth center that could attract all sorts of bands, artists, and cultural products in a drug-free, city-funded safe space? We could invest in community, not consumerism, and build a culture more than a brochure about our excellent museums. Let’s look at Great Barrington’s Railroad deal to start, or maybe something like Saint Louis’s Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center, or even Easthampton’s amazing Flywheel. C’mon.

    Pittsfield Contemporary is utter nonsense. Overpriced postcards for people not from Pittsfield to mutter about and sip microbrews. Pittsfield Cultural- or any Pittsfield municipal agency- has never supported the vibrant DIY musical community in Pittsfield, which has a long and rich history.

    I think all of this talk is distracting us from the War On Christmas.

    Can we get more photos of “Litte Guy” Dan Valenti with drawings on his knuckles? I felt so… alive.

    • danvalenti
      December 23, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

      Funny stuff. Yes, I do “chop” the pork, especially when it involves a waste of the taxpayers money. Keep reading!